How Far Can Arsenal go in the Champions League?
So I was browsing on the official site when I came across a section of the ‘fans forum’ where they were asked to vote on how far the team could go in this season’s Champions League. As expected, everyone was more or less in alignment that the Gunners would ease past AS Monaco, even 2% of the fans still had their doubts on the team qualifying to the quarterfinals. 34% believed that the Gunners’ European adventures would end in the quarterfinal stage, 32% felt that they could at least get a semifinal berth while 30% believed that the Gunners could go all the way to the finals.
In reality, you have to ask yourself a truthful question – is Arsenal strong enough to go all the way to the Champions League final and win it? Even the most optimistic folks would cast their doubts in the Gunners achieving such a feat. C’mon, the fans were very sad to see their team finish in second place because they were mightily scared of the prospect of facing Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich but you could see the sheer elation of the fans when their team was paired with Monaco. That should paint a better picture for you.
In my honest opinion, Arsenal’s best shot of winning the Champions League was in the 2003/04 season when they were blessed with one of the best teams in Europe and that dominance was shown superbly in the Premier League but in europe, it was a familiar foe, Chelsea, that ended the Gunners run abruptly in the last eight before losing out to the eventual finalists, Monaco. Would Arsenal had fared better against the likes of Patrice Evra, Jerome Rothen, Ludovic Giuly, Dado Prso and Fernando Morientes? I definitely feel so. Even if they managed to win the principality in the semis, what were the chances of getting the better of a side that had Carlos Alberto, Deco, Vitor Baia and the enigmatic Jose Mourinho on the sidelines in the final? Question for the gods, I presume.
In the 2004/05 season, Claudio Pizzaro did the damage for Bayern that the Olympia Stadion and a Thierry Henry goal in the second leg was enough to see the Gunners progress further in the competition. The class of 06′ almost made history for Arsene Wenger, easing past FC Thun, Sparta Prague and Ajax in the group stages before sweeping past Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal in the knockout stages. On that famous night in Paris, Barcelona beat the Gunners to win the Champions League. That was the closest Arsene Wenger had been to lifting the famous big ear trophy and since then, it has been a series of near miss after near miss.
PSV surprisingly knocked the Gunners out in 07′, Liverpool did the damage in 08′, Manchester United in 09′, Barcelona in 2010 and 2011, AC Milan in 2012, and of course, the Gunners newest nemesis, Bayern Munich, inflicting pain in the Gunners in the past two seasons.
As long as juggernauts like Bayern, Barcelona and the defending champions, Real Madrid, are still in the competition, I fear the worst for my darling Arsenal. The Gunners have a team with a lot of talented individuals but they can’t match the aforementioned teams pound for pound.
But then again, that’s the funny thing about football. On the night, the Gunners can turn up the style against such illustrious opponents and it’s fair to say that in all cases, the winners are usually decided over the course of two legs and sadly, Arsene Wenger ‘s lot have been found wanting.
Let’s see how things pan out in February.